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Vanderbilt Commodores

Trailblazing basketball player Perry Wallace dies

Perry Wallace, who broke down a racial barrier in the Deep South by becoming the first black varsity basketball player in the Southeastern Conference, has died after a battle with cancer.

Wallace, who died Friday at age 69 at a hospice center in Rockville, Maryland, went on to a distinguished career as a law professor. But it was his time on the basketball court as a player for Vanderbilt in the turbulent 1960s that made him a pioneer in race relations.

"Vanderbilt, the sports world and the entire country lost a civil rights icon," Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos said in a statement late Friday.

Wallace made history when he played for Vanderbilt in a...